The journey from Salt Lake City airport to Zermatt Resort & Spa is a particularly memorable one. Despite not having the Swiss Alps, a mountain railway and the Matterhorn there are a good many spectacular sights to cram in en route. Our short 45 minute drive from Salt Lake City airport begins with a detour for a view across the world’s largest salt lake and a look at the ‘Great Saltair’ – a hulking, historic lakeside resort – before heading in to the mountains. We pass frozen lakes and enjoy broad vistas of snowy peaks before passing through the pretty village of Midway, where traditional Victorian houses are decorated with a few feet of freshly fallen snow and street lamps are adorned with fluttering Swiss flags.
We soon enter Zermatt Resort & Spa itself, along a cobblestone driveway, past a giant stone-carved bear and a stone colonnade backed by half-timbered buildings, painted with murals of mountain scenes. We pull up under a portico of giant wooden beams before stepping inside a high, wood-panelled lobby that features a stone fireplace, ornately carved statues, a wrought iron chandelier and painted plaques featuring coats of arms from the Swiss Cantons.
One could be forgiven for thinking we are describing a hotel in the heart of the Alps, but we are of course deep in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. This is an area often called “Utah’s Switzerland” because of the dramatic peaks around Mount Timpanagos to the west, and the presence of a large population of Swiss settlers that made their home in Midway during the 1860s and 1870s.
Whilst the veneer of Swiss authenticity is unsurprisingly fairly thin in places, it is of no real consequence as the whole effect is quite delightful. We are happy to be carried along with the illusion, and enjoy the atmosphere whilst not having to try and speak German or struggle with transactions in Swiss Francs.
The ‘European’ style is carried through in to the rooms with similar gusto. Ours featured an elegant four poster bed with richly coloured and embroidered fabrics, a stone fireplace with (gas) log fire, gilt-framed historical paintings and reproduction 19th century dark wood furniture.
A big wrought iron mirror, ornate light fittings and a vintage style sink unit put the historic touch on a lovely, modern bathroom. There are quality toiletries and big fluffy robes that can be worn down to the Zermatt Resort’s own spa.
The two restaurants have a strong meat bias with vegetarian options somewhat thin on the ground. Although this isn’t unique to Zermatt Resort, it would have been good to see some more non-meat and lighter dining choices. ‘European-style’ steak dinners are the main attraction at the smarter of the two, Z’s Steak & Chop Haus, where they boast ‘the finest cuts of prime aged steaks, chops, and seafood’. The Wildfire Smokehaus is more casual with excellent wood-fired pizza and their ‘famous’ homemade pies.
Excellent buffet breakfasts are also served at the Smokehaus although we often selected Zermatt’s own Bakery next door. Here you can watch the pastry chefs busily baking their award-winning pastries, fruit tarts and cookies. Espresso coffees, sandwiches, and soups are also served.
Although there is plenty to do here in summer – with lots of active options like hiking, biking and golf – we love it here in winter.
It is a very convenient, and lower cost, ‘back door’ in to the exclusive winter sport resorts of Park City & Deer Valley, an easy twenty minutes drive away. These are resorts that are not only very busy but often prohibitively expensive, especially during the Sundance film festival in late January.
Robert Redford’s own Sundance Mountain Resort is also a similarly short drive away and a great option for a few days skiing. It is a small and laid back resort with a delightful lunch stop at the Foundry Grill and an apres ski beer at the rustic Owl Bar absolutely de rigeur.
A final added bonus of a stay at Zermatt Resort are the spa and wellness options. The resort has its own full service spa with a great selection of massage, body and facial treatments and packages.
This is also an area of bountiful natural hot springs, known locally as ‘hot pots’, which bubble and steam across the landscape. Adjacent to the resort is the Homestead Crater, a 400-foot wide, 65-foot deep crater, filled with crystal-clear mineral rich water that stays around 90F all year. The warm water flowing from the mineral rich hot swing was instrumental in the resort beginnings as a place where weary miners and travellers could bathe and soak away their aches and pains. Now the ancient, 10,000 year-old hot spring offers year-round warm-water scuba diving in the calm, azure water. You can actually hire scuba gear and dive in to the crater, or have a snorkelling lesson, but many people prefer to just bathe in the mineral rich waters, and float/relax in the steaming water.
Afterwards take an instagram ready stroll through a forest of ‘ice castles’ formed by spraying water on to metal frames.
For sure nobody can accuse a visit at Zermatt Resort & Spa of lacking variety. Pick your season and activities and you are sure to find your perfect stay.
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Zermatt Resort & Spa